Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Friday, 25 April 2008 17:28 UK

Torch guards complaints reported

Olympic guards
The Chinese guards tried to keep protesters away from the torch

Complaints about Chinese security guards' conduct during the London Olympic torch relay are being passed to Games organisers by the Home Office.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith confirmed in a letter to the Conservatives that the guards had no policing powers.

"If any individual thinks there has been an unlawful act then it is vital that it is reported," she said.

The tracksuit-clad guards were at the centre of a row earlier this month when they scuffled with protesters.

The Home Office has not revealed who made the complaints, but Ms Smith said the torch guards could only protect the Olympic flame by "placing themselves between the offender and the torch bearer".


She added: "We are raising concerns that have been reported in the media and by spectators at the torch relay with the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games through the event organisers."

They seemed to be ordering about the police and the Olympic officials, and everyone appeared to be doing what they said
Konnie Huq

Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis wrote to the home secretary earlier this month to query the status of the Chinese officials who ran alongside the torch.

"This group appeared to have some role in providing security and were seen manhandling protesters," he wrote.

Mr Davis said he still had not received satisfactory answers from Ms Smith as to why the guards had been allowed to forcibly restrain protesters.

"If, as she says, they had no executive power or policing authority, why, were they manhandling members of the public? And has she raised their conduct with the Chinese government?" he asked.

"Robotic behaviour"

Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, who carried the torch for part of the way through London on 6 April spoke at the time of the "full-on" and "robotic" behaviour of the torch guards - thought to be specially-trained members of the Chinese military police.

She said: "I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police and the Olympic authorities before our leg of the relay, which was confusing. "

She told BBC's Newsnight: "The men in blue seemed to be in opposition to everyone - they seemed to be ordering about the police and the Olympic officials, and everyone appeared to be doing what they said.

"I can understand why, because they were so intimidating."

The chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games, Lord Coe, was overheard describing the guards as "horrible thugs" after similar scuffles happened in Paris during the French leg of the torch relay.


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